When his family moved to the small town of Chhatarpur from Gwalior, he was happy that at least things will begin afresh and he can start over. His happiness didn’t last any longer than an Indian cricket team supporter when the opposition needs 20 runs from the last over and Ashish Nehra is given the ball. Soon he found out that the peon of the school shared the same name as his, and the Principal used to call out the name instead of hitting the bell- the frequency of which increased drastically when he used to pass by the Principal’s office. Also, “Ram” and “Ramu” as it turns out to be, rhymed with every other word created in the universe. When his parents named him, they thought that the name was universal but, he was sure, they didn’t mean this by universal. During PT classes, the teacher would make them go through the routine “Saavdhan-Vishraam” routine. Ram always wondered why the teacher emphasized so much on the second syllable of “Vishram” and paused for just the time sufficient enough for the girls to turn back, look at him and giggle. He’d grimace, make a face at them and that was just the time when the PT teacher would direct all his attention toward him. Corporal punishment would follow.
He’d be the one getting caught with others’ crib sheets in exams, the one who knew all the answers but couldn’t write much because the invigilator was standing right on his head, looking over his shoulder, reading his answersheet word by word as he wrote the words down. That made Ram pause over every word, wonder about its prehistoric origins, etymology and what-not before jotting it down in order to avoid sounding silly. Let’s just say it was time and marks-consuming process.
As he grew up and entered college, his voodoo doll also grew. His road was somewhere lost in the multitude of blocks that had grown over the years. He had a crush on an average looking lass, knowing that the good-looking ones may be generous enough to spit on his face but, nothing more. So, he tries to find more about his future wife and of course she turns out to be a powerful mafia-cum-businessman-cum-politician’s daughter whose marriage was already fixed with some rich, handsome NRI. This information was enough for him to stop having thoughts remotely close to a happy love life.
The plus side was that he never bought lottery tickets, never wasted his time calling up “Kaun Banega Crorepati” or going to casinos. He’d throw the “Scratch and Win” coupons directly to the dustbin with downright contempt.
One day, on his way to work, 45 years old Ram parked his scooter and went on to cross the road. Breaking the red signal, a lorry seemingly with controls lost, came speeding toward him. He stood between a car carrying a happy family, a few two wheelers with the riders scared to death and a lorry representing the mad bull whose eye he hadn’t been able to hit his whole life. He leaped across toward the emptier side of road, almost certain that the lorry will follow him, leaving behind the innocent traffic and absorbed the massive thud that flung his body in air. He was lent unconscious for less than a second.
As he woke up, to his surprise, he was still in air as he landed on a fluffy object with no trace of pain from the accident he just faced. He rubbed his eyes to find himself on a floating cloud. “Floor 7, please alight”- a mechanical female voice rang in his ears. He carefully stepped down to a red carpet leading him to a reception counter. “Welcome to heaven, sir. We are pleased to have you here. Please enjoy your stay. “ Ramu was part delighted, part angst-ridden- an emotion exclusive to such a situation. “May I talk to the manager here?” he said . “You may, of course.”- said the young lady as she morphed into a bearded old man with shiny white clothes. “Yes, how may I help you, son?” said he. Looking the least bit surprised, Ram started- “I take it that you are God, right?” The elderly gentleman smiled and nodded. Ram went on- “Ah, I knew it; so much for the subtleness, you are such a show off. The white beard doesn’t make you any wiser nor do these cheap magic tricks impress me.” Seeing no change of expression on the gentleman’s face, Ram somewhat frustrated went on- “I have just one question and one question only- what was that? I mean my life. Was it karma, was it… I don’t know… what … was it?” God paused, his face turned grave for a moment and then he smiled again, he asked Ram nonchalantly- “Do you want to repeat this life? I’ll erase all the data from your head, you’ll be born to very rich parents, drive around in an expensive car, will have new, better loyal friends, will live longer and die peacefully. How do you feel about that?” Taken aback, Ram thought for a while and said- “No, I’d rather be with the sweet memories of this life of mine. Now I know what you mean, life is worth living with every pain and every inconvenience that it gives, because it’s a gift and gifts are meant to be cherished. I’ve been through a lot and I’d like to hold on to it.” God smiled, patted his head and vanished to leave behind a beautiful landscape. It was heaven.
“Wait a minute! Did the offer include that I’d actually get to marry the girl of my dreams? Would it be my own parents who’d be richer in the alternate life? Or would they be different parents altogether? Come to think of it, I am ok with the offer! Whoa! Wait, I wasn’t ready!”- Ram ran after the vanishing shadow, gave up the chase after a while, sat on a rock and held his forehead in his palms mumbling to himself- “I am so unlucky!”